Residents of Otter Tail County may have heard a lot of news about federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funding.  The funding was authorized under the federal CARES Act. The funds can be used to support local government services as well as grants to businesses, hospitals and individuals in Otter Tail County who have been impacted by COVID-19.

In late June, Gov. Tim Walz announced a plan to distribute $841 million to Minnesota counties, cities and towns to support local government coronavirus relief efforts. The CARES Act requires payments from the funds be used only to cover expenses that:

• Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19).

• Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020, (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the state or local government.

• Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.

In early July, Otter Tail County received its allocation of $7.2 million. It is the county’s desire to rapidly invest these funds into local communities and townships through the “Navigating the Road Ahead Program,” which includes six primary categories:

Community resilience: Housing, food, and financial assistance for struggling individuals and families.

Workforce: Resources for those who have lost their jobs as well as employers who need workers.

Small business: Support for small business and nonprofit organizations to stay open and adapt.

Education and child care: Assistance for local school districts and child care providers.

Emergency response: Public safety and public health expenditures by the county.

Small Towns: Resources specifically for small communities under 200 people.

Cities and towns under 200 people were not eligible for a direct distribution from the state. However, Otter Tail County has developed a specific fund to reimburse eligible costs for those cities and towns.

Specific programs and investment recommendations are currently being developed by staff and community stakeholders. We welcome your feedback and input on ways in which this program can best support individuals, families and businesses during this period of significant need. The goal is to begin rapidly investing these funds into area communities beginning in August.

Otter Tail County will continue applying for other funding opportunities from federal and state governments and private foundations to offset the many costs associated with an effective COVID-19 response and recovery.

Otter Tail County is committed to ensuring individuals, families, businesses, and communities are supported during this challenging time. The county wants to ensure every dollar of eligible CARES Act aid is invested within Otter Tail County.

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